The wind and solar boom is here – Twin Cities

2021-04-30 03:23:54 –

The chemistry that bottles the sun, air, and its infinite power-these are increasingly appearing to constitute the next major technological advancement in the world. It’s a life-changing leap for aviation, the internet, or, of course, for many of us. ,plastic.

There have long been questions about the utility of renewable energy, faster than many think, but now significant changes are underway. We are moving from a global economy that is primarily fueled by climate-warming fossil fuels to a global economy that cleans most of our energy from water, wind and sky fire.

Energy market researchers say that economics alone will ensure the final transition to clean fuels, but government policy choices can speed that up. In October, the International Energy Agency declared solar power to be the cheapest new form of electricity in many parts of the world. Where particularly advantageous, solar power is now “the cheapest source of electricity in history,” the agency said.

It can be difficult to gather a lot of optimism about humanity’s ability to cope with climate change, and I was previously pessimistic just to encourage urgent action towards collective problem-solving. He argued that it was wisest to look to the future with our eyes. (If we are frank about how bad things happen, we are more likely to do something to solve the problem.)

There are many reasons to question the future of clean energy. Wind and solar still make up a small part of the world’s energy production. Even their most ardent supporters acknowledge that many things need to change to maximize the potential of renewable energy. Over the next few decades, consumers and businesses will need to adapt to many new technologies, and governments will have to build new infrastructure and review energy regulations built around fossil fuels.

Still, in the general darkness of climate change, the clean energy boom offers not only hope, but the unusual glow of excitement. The industry’s bold claims are underpinned by bolder trends. Over the past few decades, experts have consistently underestimated price declines, improved performance, and the subsequent rate of renewable energy adoption.

Renewable energy is a production volume, unlike fossil fuels, which become more expensive when more fuel is drawn from the ground, because renewable energy requires more and more work to extract declining resources. It is based on technology that becomes cheaper as the number increases. This will create a favorable flywheel. As solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and related technologies for producing clean energy are getting cheaper and cheaper, we continue to use them more. The more you use them, the larger the scale of production and the lower the price.

When Jenny Chase, who analyzes the solar sector at energy research firm Bloomberg NEF, began work in 2005, her most optimistic scenario is that solar ultimately accounts for 1% of the world’s electricity. It was to generate. At the time, solar power didn’t contribute essentially to the world’s energy mix, so even the slightest part looked pretty good.

“Well, I thought it was a small thing, but it’s okay to focus my career on 1% of the world’s electricity,” she told me.

She was far away, and so were many others, including government agencies. In the middle of the last decade, solar power has exceeded 1% of the world’s electricity generation. Chase currently estimates that sunlight accounts for at least 3% of the world’s electricity. That’s three times the power she once thought.

In a forecast released late last year, Bloomberg NEF Chase and her colleagues estimated that by 2050, 56% of the world’s electricity would be produced by wind and solar. But she says the predictions are already out of date — it’s too low.

Others are even more advanced. “The era of fossil fuels is over,” the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a non-profit think tank that studies the economics of clean energy, declares in a new report. Energy strategist Kings Milbon told me that the transition to renewable energy would change geopolitics and the world economy on a scale comparable to the Industrial Revolution.

He cites one easy-to-understand example to explain how and why. Ghawar, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest conventional oil field, is capable of producing approximately 4 million barrels of oil per day. Converting Ghawar’s annual oil production into electricity yields about 1 petawatt-hour of electricity per year. (This is almost enough to supply Japan with electricity for one year. The world’s annual electricity demand is 27 petawatt hours.)

The Ghawar field occupies a lot of space — about 3,000 square miles, the combined size of Rhode Island and Delaware. But using that much sunny land to drill oil can quickly sound crazy. Bond estimates that installing solar panels in an area the same size as Ghawar can produce more than one petawatt hour per year, more than can be obtained from the oil buried under Ghawar.

But one day the oil will run out and the sun will continue to illuminate Ghawar. And not only there, but everywhere else. As Bond explains, this is the magic of the sun. Only Saudi Arabia has Ghawar, but with solar power, almost every country in the world with ample space can generate 1 petawatt hour of electricity (and does not jeopardize the launch of the planet. ).

It is important to note that there are still hurdles that will impede the future of renewable energy. The most obvious is the infrastructure needed to harness all this power. For example, a more robust power grid or the conversion of everything from cars to container ships to electricity.

These problems are considerable, but they can be solved. Saul Griffith, the inventor (and MacArthur Fellow) of the organization Rewiring America, wrote in his next book, Electrify, that “many of the barriers to the future of clean energy are systematic and bureaucratic. , Not technical. “

Griffith says transformation will be a huge financial success. Many analysts predict huge job creation and energy price savings by switching to renewable energy. But if you want to be in time to avoid some of the most devastating predictions about warming climates, you need to move forward even faster. In particular, Griffith is calling for a complete overhaul of its energy policy to reduce some of the regulatory costs associated with the expansion of renewable energy.

What does it cost? Many small, unexpected things. For example, in many parts of the United States, installing rooftop solar panels requires a large and costly permitting process, which can significantly increase prices. Through streamlined rules, other countries have succeeded in significantly reducing such costs.

This is not an easy task. The fossil fuel industry is actively fighting the rise of renewable energy. But at best, it only slows things down. A carbon-free energy economy is arriving, whether oil and coal companies like it or not.

Farhad Manjoo writes a column for .

The wind and solar boom is here – Twin Cities Source link The wind and solar boom is here – Twin Cities